Caregivers to Elderly Find Hometown Help With UAMS Schmieding


Caregivers in training in the Schmieding program practice bed to wheelchair transfers using a hoist.

Ron Ort, left, 74, and his mother, Catherine Ort, 94.

Dec. 28, 2012 | Ronald Ort didn’t know how he was going to take care of his 94-year-old mother when the time came that she needed daily care. With no training and no medical background, Ort questioned how he was going to assist his mother with her care needs.

He found his answer at the UAMS South Central Center on Aging in Pine Bluff, where he enrolled in the Schmieding home caregiver training program that recently became available there.

The caregiver program, pioneered in Arkansas by the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale, is spreading statewide, giving people like Ort the opportunity to prepare to become their elderly relative’s caregiver.

The Schmieding Center is one of eight centers on aging operated by the Arkansas Aging Initiative Program of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Operating in partnership with local providers, the Schmieding caregiver program offers everything from basic informational classes to hands-on practical training for family caregivers, home caregivers and health professionals. No other elder caregiving instruction program has been available to families with a statewide reach.

Using the framework of the Arkansas Aging Initiative (AAI) and a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in 2009, the caregiver program was extended from its original Springdale location to other AAI centers on aging in Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Texarkana and West Memphis.

Through another $7.7 million grant in 2012 from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the program will now be available at three additional Centers on Aging and at the Reynolds Institute on Aging in Little Rock beginning in 2013.  Classes are scheduled to begin in January at Fort Smith, April in Little Rock, July in Hot Springs and October in El Dorado.

“It’s really exciting because in the four places where we are open, the communities have really embraced the training,” said Robin McAtee, Ph.D., R.N., primary investigator of the grant and associate director of the Arkansas Aging Initiative. “We have some graduates with great stories to tell. At the new sites scheduled to open in 2013, they already know what has happened at the other sites and are eager to bring this service to their communities, too.

The Schmieding curriculum is a 116-hour, nationally recognized training program that offers four levels of certification for people who wish to make a career out of home caregiving (paid caregivers) and two workshops at no cost for those who want to provide care to their family members or significant others.

A $3.5 million award in June from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department will add a 40-hour module to produce a more advanced nursing aid position for home-based, long-term care and the development of a distance-learning component.

According to an AARP survey, 89 percent of seniors want to age in their homes for as long as possible. Caregivers in their homes — whether family members, friends or health professionals — enable seniors to do that.

“Maybe you choose to hire your niece,” project director Sherry White, M.S.N., R.N., said. “Well, she still needs to be trained. Thanks to these programs, we have the privilege of being able to not only increase the number of qualified home care providers who wish to work as elder care providers but also train family members who are the primary caregiver for an older person.”

The Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program was inspired by Lawrence H. Schmieding, who had struggled to find competent, compassionate home care for a brother with dementia. In 1998, the Schmieding Foundation donated $15 million to UAMS to establish and construct the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale. The center developed a unique, high-quality caregiver training program specifically designed for older adults living in their homes. Several years later, the Arkansas Aging Initiative was invited to apply for a grant from the Reynolds Foundation to expand its program and is now in the second phase of that grant.

Scattered programs in other states have adopted the Schmieding instructional and care models, but none have done it on a statewide level. McAtee said Oklahoma has received a grant from the Reynolds Foundation to do so but is in the earliest stages of development.

Because the UAMS Centers on Aging provide services and education in each region of the state, using that existing infrastructure to replicate the program makes good sense, White said.

White said the certified part of the program’s classes are tiered and designed to produce a ready supply of graduates with varying levels of skills and competency.

“Someone hired by an individual as a companion doesn’t necessarily require the same skill set required to work in a long-term care facility; however,  they do need education and practical experience in communication, infection control, fall prevention, nutrition and hydration, and ambulation,” White said.

If graduates desire to advance their training they can go to the next level. Family members are also welcome to take more advance training. The training fits the needs of the learner and enables them to be a safe provider for the setting and needs of their client or family member.

Family caregiver workshops are four hours a day for two days, a schedule developed with working caregivers in mind. Workshops are taught by licensed nurses and combine instruction with a variety of demonstrations.

In addition to training for individual caregivers, the program can provide training to employees of private home-care agencies. That’s part of an overall goal of professionalizing the growing home-care business, McAtee said.

While family caregiver classes are free, there are fees for classes that lead to certifications.  Classes leading to certification have an applicant screening process to ensure the individuals are prepared for the learning process and understand the commitment of being a home care provider. Some financial need scholarships are available.

“To my knowledge, no other university system is involved in providing this level of training,” White said. “UAMS is a very special partner for that reason. Many times, a university will focus on training the professionals, but UAMS understands that when you look at quality outcomes, best practices in elder care, and how long an older adult will be able to remain in their home, it takes a team.”

While the majority of older adults wish to be cared for in their home and 80 percent are cared for by family, it only makes sense to offer this type of education program to the community, she said.

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